Melvyn Robinson was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire in 1933. He attended Barnsley College of Art in 1950 and went on to study at Manchester College of Art in 1955. He later studied further at Keele University, where he became interested in combined arts and education, researching an integrated curriculum. He lectured in art at the College of Education in Cheshire, Hackney College in London and the London Institute. He also taught art and music across schools in London.
Robinson’s first solo exhibition was in 1978 at the Acme Gallery, Covent Garden in London. He had a number of solo exhibitions including the Cooper Art Gallery in Barnsley, The Air Gallery in London, The Mile End Art Pavilion in London and The Gallery in Cadaques, Spain. He had group exhibitions with the Whitechapel Community Arts across East London, where he was also involved in gallery education. He had regular open studios at the Acme Studios in London, leading to a number of private commissions. Robinson exhibited at the Mall Galleries, the Bankside Gallery, the Hackney Museum, the Brick Lane Gallery and Candid Arts.
Robinson was also known as a musician, having played with the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals as well as the jazz bands The Temperance Seven, The Bill Posters Will Be Band and Jazz Junction. He worked in Theatre at the Old Half Moon Theatre, London in productions of The Docks and Woyzeck and in the New Half Moon Theatre, London in productions of Pal Joey, Mahogony and Dreamer. The latter of which he was the composer. He also worked at the Mermaid Theatre, London in a production of Trafford Tanzi.
Geometry has been a recurring theme in the history of art: from Platonic solids to Roman pavements; from Gothic paintings to Victorian households; from Russian Suprematism to the academic analyses of Paul Klee. Exploring regular geometrical tessellations, Robinson creates a system of painting comprising five inter-related categories:
Robinson imitates reality in a series of predominantly art school sketches from his home town.
These early works are revisited and reworked in a form of structural or geometric reduction.
Robinson explores the two-dimensional possibilities in some regular geometric tessellations.
A new dimension is created within the geometric tessellations, that of ambiguous phenomena as well as three-dimensional perspectives.
Robinson develops the previous two categories to create works where a kind of transcendental representation emerges from the geometric abstraction. Thus, the categories come full circle.
Robinson believes that these themes have emerged in his work almost by happenstance but also that they parallel some developments in 20th century philosophy.
To quote Merleau-Ponty in Eye and Mind, 1960:
“The effort of modern painting has been directed not so much toward choosing between line and colour or even between figurative depiction and the creation of signs, as it has been toward multiplying the systems of equivalences . . .”